Longtime Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced Tuesday she will not seek reelection in 2024, ending a storied career in politics spanning more than 50 years and setting up what’s expected to be a hotly contested race for her prominent Senate seat.
Feinstein, 89, is serving her fifth full term as a senator, after first taking the office in 1992 by winning a special election.
The senator said in a statement she intends to serve out her full term, despite mounting pressure from some Democrats who believe she has become ineffective in her advanced age and should retire sooner.
Feinstein’s announcement was largely expected given the high-profile names that have jumped into the 2024 Senate race in recent weeks, including Rep. Adam Schiff and progressive Rep. Katie Porter, while fellow progressive Reps. Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee are also expected to jump into the race.
Feinstein is the longest serving female senator in history and the longest-serving senator from California. She was long considered a pillar of the institution and wielded immense power as the senior senator from the nation’s most populous state, but her influence waned greatly over the past few years. Feinstein was plagued by questions about whether her mental faculties were declining—which she repeatedly denied—while she was also accused of cozying up too much to Republican lawmakers. Her comments praising Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for overseeing the 2020 confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett irked fellow Democrats in particular, since many felt the process was rushed and argued Feinstein’s comments proved she was out of touch.
Feinstein’s political career started in 1969, when she was first elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She became San Francisco’s mayor in dramatic fashion on November 27, 1978, assuming the office after then-Mayor George Moscone and fellow Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated by Dan White, a disgruntled former supervisor who often clashed with the mayor and Milk—the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. Feinstein served as mayor for nearly a decade, during which she was widely considered one of the nation’s most effective mayors.
Feinstein is the oldest member of Congress but far from the longest-serving public official there. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is a few months younger than Feinstein, has served in various elected offices since he first won election to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1958. He was reelected in November to serve another six-year Senate term.
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